Unless we hate our father and mother, brothers and sisters, and our own life, we can't be disciples of Jesus Christ. We can't be his disciples unless we take up our cross and follow Him. It is not a problem in the modern-day church where manmade doctrines of salvation without discipleship rule the day. I call it the thief on the cross theology: ask Jesus to remember you with your last dying breath, and you will be saved. Not everyone is moved to repent on their deathbed. Today is the day of salvation, maybe not tomorrow. No one can come to the Son unless the Spirit draws him. How often one has quenched the spirit or the knock at the door will determine our dying words.

Why become a disciple if it is optional and has a prerequisite of losing one's life to find it? Why not lower the cost and take the easier bronze package? Leave the silver and gold packages for extra credit and the overachievers. There are no different classes of Christians, only the poor in spirit.

Eternal life is free for those who believe Jesus paid it all. But discipleship seems to be the cost of leaving the gang life we were born into. To follow Jesus means to be crucified with Him and resurrected with Him. Freedom always carries a cost. Jesus paid for the new life, and we are paying the cost of disposing of the flesh called living the crucified life. Both are by grace through faith.

It is simple to become born-again, but it costs everything to be saved. We are saved by Jesus alone when we believe His words are spirit and life to do what He tells us to do. We believe Jesus when we take up our cross and follow Him. Discipleship is not an option; it is mandatory after becoming a new creation and maturing into the new creation. If you die while maturing in Christ, you have nothing to fret about. But don't make the mistake of taking a year or two off to find yourself. Lose your old self to find your new self is what Jesus said.

Do we believe what Jesus said about the few that are saved? The road to destruction is wide, and the path to salvation is narrow. Some will seek the narrow path but are not able to enter eternal life because they seek their own and not God's.

Does that bother you? Is your life narrow enough to enter through the doorway of Jesus? Who are the church people knocking on the door, telling Jesus to let us in? Who are the ministers knocking on the door and telling Jesus all the works they have done in His name? Who are these people? If not you and I, then who? People who never became disciples of Jesus are the ones on the outside left knocking. These are the people who remained lord of their own life. These are the people who put a cross around their necks and in their ears but never took up the cross to follow Jesus. These people didn't answer the door when Jesus was knocking.

Sometimes, it isn't easy to distinguish between the sheep and the goats and the wheat and the tares. But we don't need to be the Good Shepard; He knows His sheep, and they know His voice to answer the knock. And we don't have to separate the wheat and tares; less we pull up the wheat. Harvest will reveal the truth from the false. There are many among us.

Discipleship is progressive from the first day of surrendering one's life to Jesus, His way, His truth, and His life. We are bought at a price that we are not our own. It is through faith, so it can be by grace that we are transformed into the image of Christ as disciples. Grace is the power to choose a life that we were once powerless to overcome. Instead of leading people in a sinner's prayer, a faith statement, or a creed, we should be telling people the cost of following Jesus and the cost of not.

Our Christian communities are full of people who have not counted the cost, and when the cost becomes real, they turn back to the wide path. If you are a new Christian and haven't been exposed to the whole counsel of God's word, He will leave the ninety-nine to bring you back into the fold. But if you have been exposed to God's light and don't like what you see, you may be a goat heading back into the darkness of the night, and Jesus will not chase after you because goats don't belong to Him.

There is a cost for eternal life. It cost God's only begotten Son His life, so why do we think it won't cost us our life? Is the life of dead men walking too much to lie down? So that we may have a life of abundance in Christ? If we want to find life, then we must be willing to lose the one we have. We must lose the self-directed life to a Holy Spirit-directed life through Jesus. If Jesus paid the cost, what is the cost He is talking about? There is another cost to salvation that is not covered by the blood of Jesus.

The cost is following the way, the truth, and the life of the Father has given to us. There is no other way. There is no room for negotiating. The terms for eternal life are set in blood. We must give up our own to follow Him. Marriage is a mystery that is revealed in Christ and His church. From the beginning, the man was to leave His father, and the bride cling to her husband to become one flesh. Jesus left His Father to secure a bride. Are we clinging to Jesus to become one in spirit? Or do we want our options open?

Jesus is our ride-or-die. We are not moved when the cost is higher than we can pay because we know we aren't in this alone. We don't have enough to pay for eternal life or pay back the destruction we left as a sinner in a rebellious world. Temptations, trials, and tribulations are all part of losing our lives to find new life. We are dead to sin with Christ on the cross but then are told to die to sin because sin hasn't yet been removed from this world or the flesh. One day, we will shed the flesh once and for all!

But for now, we must choose to stay dead to sin and alive to the righteousness of God that has been given to us so that we may experience the resurrected power of Christ as we are also raised with Him.

The cost of discipleship is high, but when you compare the cost of death and hell, the cost of following Christ as a disciple should be acceptable if we have taken the time to count the cost. But we live in a buy now pay later consumer society. And hoping 'pay later' never comes while living undisciplined lives.

Other thoughts, as in the title of this newsletter: My question is, how are we transformed and not conformed to the culture of Christianity? We are to be transformed into the image of Christ by renewing the mind. But many in the Christian community conformed to the traditions of men having a form of holiness but denying Jesus His place as Lord.

God has been patient with me over the last twenty-plus years as I struggle with purpose and life. I am motivated by purpose. I seek meaning, lasting fruit, impact, and change in the church and society, but am left disappointed with myself and my lack of accomplishments. However, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And God is in the process of uprooting tares that He didn't plant and changing my ways that are not His.

I recently came across the CIA's RICE acronym. It is a program that teaches its spies how to compromise a person into giving up secrets of their government. RICE stands for the four methods to gain access to people: reward, ideology, coercion, and ego.

All four methods are accessible in each of our lives, but there is a primary; mine is ideology. I'm not a dog that will roll over for a reward. I will stand against coercion even if it is something I want. And we all have egos, but flattery doesn't work well for me. I prefer correction over compliments and don't take to flattery.

Now, back to answering the knock on the door for discipleship. I want to have an impact. But life is a vapor, and most will be forgotten soon after we die. Others are forgotten a generation or two later. One hundred twenty years from now, we will all be replaced by new people, so what are we doing with our small window of life? Will we even be a footnote in someone's history book? 

God's eternal word to me and all that have ears to hear. Not many have a lasting impact. Change is often short and not applied across generations. Ronald Regan said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." It takes a lifetime for a person to cause a change in society in their generation, and it takes one night of darkness to forget yesterday. Most people who have made generational changes do not see it in their lifetime. It seems only the wicked, through coercion and manipulation, can change a generation seamlessly overnight. But God's way is better, though slower, and it is not an overnight work. But God doesn't coerce or manipulate to get His way.

I think of Moses at the end of his race. God tells Moses that he will die today, and the people are returning to Egypt. How depressing knowing that you lived your life to what end? But Moses impacted generations since that day, so his life wasn't a washout.

I think of Daniel carried off to Babylon at a young age with a seventy-year sentence. Daniel's excellence was seen in everything he put his hand to because he pleased God. He fervently prayed that the Jews would return to the promised land and rebuild the temple, according to the book of Jeremiah. Through his fervent prayers, God confirmed to Daniel that this would happen, and Daniel may have seen the start with Ezra and Nehemiah. But God then gave Daniel more visions of what would happen to the temple and the Jewish people at a later date, a worse dispersion and temple destruction where every stone was torn down. How depressing that you pray and serve only to be shown the worst hasn't yet taken place.

Then you have Paul, who I identify more closely. Paul was always worried that he labored in vain because progress wasn't always evident. Paul labored more than all the other disciples because of the grace he received, only to write to Timothy that his race had been run and all of Asia had forsaken him.

Paul often lamented because people didn't practice what he was preaching. And Jesus himself said to them that have ears let them hear. How many heard? How many hear today? When I created my ministry's logo twenty years ago, I used two bass clefs symbolizing ears to hear.

So, how do I get out of this depression that I am not impacting the communities around me? If life is like a triathlon, I'm in the third stage if I live to be 75. I'm not Martha; I like to work and serve according to the grace given to me. I don't complain that others are not helping. I complain that people aren't hearing, so why am I speaking?

I'm in the wrong for complaining. It is God who sees the labor we do for Him. He sees it when others do not or do not value it. God values it when we do the right thing, even when we carry little to no influence to change our communities for the good.

We cannot be His disciples unless we take our cross and follow Jesus. I am His disciple. Sometimes, I put my foot in my mouth, get ahead of Him, and expect a greater boom when I deliver His word. But even without a greater boom, I am being transformed into His image and not conformed to religion.

Go into all the world and make disciples. We can't do this unless we are disciples ourselves. However, most churches are conditioned to make converts, not disciplined followers of Christ, who leave their lives to follow Jesus. One of my takeaways from the great commission is that God is interested in developing those with ears to hear. God is not willing that any perish, but He is also not interested in lowering His standards to fill heaven with the same carnality and rebellion as earth. Most will be lost. He is interested in fruit-bearing sons and daughters who love Him and love others.

Fruit doesn't have a long shelf-life. A lot of fruit is picked off the vine before the seed has reached maturity. Maybe that is why Paul labored again for Christ to be fully formed in them. Seedless fruit doesn't make disciples of the nations. So, how am I responding to despondency? I will continue to bear fruit in His name. I found the treasure of His word in a field and have purchased that field, which is my joy. It is costing me everything, but I counted the cost. I see nothing more fulfilling than working out my salvation in trembling and fear as I write and record the revelations God gives me.

My fruit is good, and the seed of Jesus is maturing in me. I will sow, and I will water. God will increase His season. In the meantime, I will enjoy my labor and commit it to Christ. Will I have an impact on society and those around me? I do not know. That is above my pay grade. What I do today, people will forget tomorrow, but God is keeping the record, and He doesn't forget our labor of love. And He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. God, I want to know you and do your will!

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